Interview with Kathrin Stahl: Photos are love letters to your children
Child and wedding photographer Kathrin Stahl says: “Time with children is now-time. Many small and big “now” who pass by way too fast. “The photographer from Hamburg wants to capture exactly this” now “for her clients in authentic and vivid photos. How she does that, she tells us in an interview today. The mom of three big children tells about her way to photography and her love for family photos.
Dear Kathrin. Which three words describe you best?
Lust for life, sun, children laugh
Since when are you photographing and how important is photography for you?
My first photos were taken as a child with an old camera of my father. But simply toppling was not. It was important to him that I immediately understand the meaning of depth of field and spent hours with me to show me what works when and how. After that, I was ready for long walks, which I spent photographing flowers, fields and paving stones. We developed in our own darkroom. What an adventure.
Since then, photography has been a part of my life and is a very important part of my day. When I see beautiful things, got to I just take pictures of them. That may be the morning sun on my coffee mug, or a piece of melon, into which my son has just bitten with relish. Such photos tell me and us in many years even the story of this one moment. And then of course there are the wonderful photo sessions for my great customers, whom I love so much. (What the “the” refers to, you can choose now.)
How would you describe your photographic style? And how did you find that style??
My style is first and foremost documentary. I did not “find” this style, but it came to me somehow, because it suits me so much: I am firmly convinced that real, unasked moments in photography later evoke the most beautiful memories.
Imagine: In many years your child will open a photo book in which photos tell the story of a normal day at your home – or during a trip. All the love it can plunge into: Is not that wonderful? This all-natural family photography is called life.story, because the pictures tell something about your real life as it is.
But: I also love taking pictures of children in front of the screen.
Again, do not want to show what is set. This kind of photography I call its.me: The parents should her child recognize in the photos. Why do we need a contrived Kinderlachen – keyword “anthill”? – if the real that comes from the very heart, but is much nicer.
And then there are those quiet pictures that touch my heart (and, fortunately, that of my parents) in particular: rest, dreaming, closing your eyes. It always makes me happy when a child gives me that trust.
Especially with your children’s portraits “its.me” and your reportages “life.story” you like to shoot in black and white. Why do you always decide here for this type of image editing?
For different reasons. The first is that I love black and white photos just when the light is right. Black and white photos can have a special depth.
At its.me, I am moved by the artistic that the images get through the interplay of blurring, lighting and black and white.
In my analog camera, its.me shoots are exclusively black and white. I edit the digital photos afterwards in a high-contrast black and white.
At life.story, it’s usually the very close moments when I decide on black and white: when the little daughter looks deeply into her dad’s eyes, no colorful puppet plate in the background should distract her. And a colorful book cover not from the intimacy of a reading moment.
When Mama lovingly holds her baby‘s head in her hands, while her big sister and daddy sit a little bored beside it, the photo wants to tell the story of that special family moment. What color the T-shirts had is not important.
When the family romps around in the meadow together, the viewer should feel the joie de vivre that springs from the photos and is not distracted by the green meadows.
And with your life.style pictures it may be colorful?
For example, when the sun conjures up wonderful light.
And when I’m greeted by a sweet family in the morning in very beautiful matching pajamas and everything fits in well with the furnishings, there is little reason to work in black and white …
…. except maybe for a little affectionate gesture
Life style sessions are very different. These are carefully crafted shootings designed with parents that are about a topic that the child or kids love most at the time. For example, a tea party with the little friends. In advance, I design a coherent lighting and color concept on the subject. At the tea party we had pastel colors and soft daylight. The color was part of the idea.
Of course, life.style can sometimes be a story in black and white. For example with a young girl who loves old French films. Oh, now that I tell about it, I’d like to do it right away. Wants someone?
If you could start all over again with your photography, what would you do differently from today’s perspective?
Many of our readers are young mothers. It is sometimes very difficult to find time for photography’s beloved hobby. How do you manage to integrate photography into everyday life? Do you have three tips for us as a triple mom??
It helped me to answer the question myself: What do I want with my photography? What will be valuable to me and my children as a memory? This allows for a good focus on the basics and prevents us from making 50 photos a day, which may just sit on our hard drive.
It is also nice to come up with a little project yourself.
How about “365 Project – One Photo a Day”? Seek a significant moment each day. A fresh bunch of flowers, the break bread that you have made with love for your child today, a new toy in the little hand of your child, the sun that shimmers through the trees while you lay together on the lake … The great thing about such A project is that, in all the hustle and bustle, it helps us to perceive the beautiful things we experience with our children. If your child is already bigger, you can let it help with the “finding moments”. At the end of the year you will create a little book with these 365 moments.
Important: the camera must be handy. If I have to dig out of a bag before I can take a picture, it will be too time-consuming. Here, however, the best camera is always the one that is just nearby. That could just be the phone.
Just as difficult as integrating photography into everyday life, I find it just so much to photograph on vacation that the family still enjoys it. Perhaps you also know that it is not always conducive to family mood when only one person is photographing and the others either have no desire to be photographed or they do not want to wait until the light is perfect … A little companion can help : My youngest son and I came up with a project a few years ago that connects our entire family. At that time, I brought him a little wire-nosed male from the MoMA Design Store in New York: Adam has been traveling with us on almost every vacation ever since and the whole family is looking for suitable places where Adam can get comfortable. Even a tour through Rome for a 12-year-old bearable.
Why is it so important to photographically document the chaotic and stink-normal everyday life of the family??
My children are already bigger and from this perspective I can say: The years have passed much too fast and I miss this chaotic toddler‘s everyday life. I would spend a lot of money on having a photo story showing our everyday life as it was then. That’s why the transience of the precious moments drives me so much. In my family reports, I tell families about all those little moments that seem so natural to us as parents and that will mean so much to our children later on.
It is usually the case that in our race through everyday life we do not even notice how much important things are in small gestures: how much tenderness in a touch, how much love in drying Kullertränchen, how much dedication for our children playing soccer in the garden , A tender change of mind when reading aloud passes too often unintentionally. All this holds a report for eternity. Is not that amazing?
But there is another reason why moms, who like to take pictures, should treat themselves and their family from time to time to a family reportage.
Unless you do not know that you could think while browsing the photo albums that you were not actually on vacation, yes, that you did not celebrate any birthdays, no Christmas. And on excursions in the afternoons or on weekends, the family was without you on the road anyway … In a photo reportage, you are guaranteed to come across all.
What is the best thing about living with children?
Laugh, read aloud, explore the world together, accompany their growing up and give them a lot of love along the way.
You also say: “Photos are love letters to your children, which they will open again and again in many years.”. What is this particular value of photos??
There is a photo from one of our family days that is close to my heart: It shows my husband and son walking through the forest, hand in hand. There is so much in it: closeness, tenderness and “I show you the world”. All that our son will be able to recognize later. (And who knows what else.)
Thank you for the interview dear Kathrin!
Thank you, dear Caro!
Family photographer Kathrin Stahl has a traveling exhibition with fantastic children’s photos. On her website you will always find out about the current exhibition location. And of course you should follow Kathrin on facebook and instagram to learn more about her latest work and projects.
Kahtrin Steel, November 2017
Interview: Carolin Bartel
Photos: Kathrin Stahl
Cover photo: Annie Rohse
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